WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved three of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, including one for an influential appeals court, for a full Senate vote.
Senators voted 18-0 to move forward with nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered the most important court in the country after the Supreme Court. Srinivasan is the principal deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, the elite Justice Department unit that represents the federal government at the high court.
He would be Obama's first nominee to the appeals court in Washington to be seated if the Senate approves the nomination.
White House press secretary Jay Carney applauded the vote for Srinivasan.
"Srinivasan's confirmation will be an important first step to filling this court's four vacancies, and the full Senate should act without unnecessary delay," Carney said.
The Democratic-controlled committee also approved by a voice vote the nomination of Raymond Chen to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and by a 10-8, party-line vote, the nomination of Jennifer Dorsey to a federal district court in Nevada.
Srinivasan's bipartisan support on the committee level bodes well for his prospects in the full Senate. It is also a stark contrast to Obama's previous nominee for the District of Columbia Circuit, Caitlin Halligan.
Halligan, a New York lawyer, withdrew her nomination after it was blocked by Republicans who said she was too liberal and didn't strictly interpret the Constitution.
The District of Columbia Circuit's influence stems from its frequent hearing of cases challenging the legitimacy of federal laws and regulations. This court also is something of a pipeline to the high court: Four Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, served on the appeals court.
The District of Columbia Circuit currently has four vacancies _ three if Srinivasan is seated. If Srinivasan joins the bench, the court would have even balance of nominees from Democratic and Republican presidents. There are currently three judges nominated by Democrats and four nominated by Republicans on the court.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee's top Republican, said Srinivasan had "the correct judicial temperament." Grassley said he believed any fear that Srinivasan would be filibustered was "unfounded."
The committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that while he was gratified Srinivasan's nomination is moving forward, he was concerned about future Republican efforts to slow nominees to the appeals court.
"The D.C. Circuit has three additional vacancies, and I look forward to filling those as well," Leahy said.
Republicans opposed the nomination of Dorsey because of reports that partners at her Nevada law firm donated approximately $150,000 to a super PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., while Reid was considering whether to push for Dorsey's nomination.
Grassley said he thought all committee members were "aware of the press accounts of campaign contributions which were made at the time this nomination was under consideration."
He said he opposed her nomination because he was "concerned about the appearances and how such actions might undermine public confidence in the judiciary."
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